The week when the northern lights wouldn’t quit

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Aurora borealis over snow-covered birch trees
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Where do I even begin? I mean, the title kind of says it all. As I sit here writing, I am purely exhausted. I was driving to the post office this morning and heard a piece on NPR about how incredibly important it is to get 8 hours of sleep every day and how every part of our life suffers, physically and mentally when we don’t. I’m must not operating correctly today. However, there’s a bittersweet outlook right now. Peering out the window, I see the clouds are thickening, maybe I’ll have no reason to stay up late tonight.

On the third of January, just as the moon was becoming full, we had an incredible display. It continued the next evening going well into the morning of the 5th. I rested, the aurora rallied. On the evening of January 5th, I had been thinking I would get some rest. The forecast wasn’t great, but it looked like it would be getting better later in the week. I was so wrong.

Northern lights over road and forest in Fairbanks, Alaska.
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Slipping into the morning hours of the 6th I wasn’t even thinking about how I was planning on getting a good rest this night and the next since the 7th had the best forecast. How could I care about sleep with views like these?

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I finally made it to bed . . . just before 5 am. Up by 8:30. I think my cumulative sleep over the last 4 days might make up 8 or 9 hours. In the morning it took nearly half an hour to transfer my photos to the computer, and another 2 hours to back up my photos from the week. I put some serious mileage on my shutter. Maybe I can get some sleep on this night.

Weather or Not

Here’s the thing, aurora forecasts are a little worse than weather forecasts. It’s hard to determine the exact trajectory the blast a CME or a fast wind from a coronal hole will take from the Sun 93 million miles away. Even then, there’s no telling how it will react with the Earth’s magnetic field. Forecasts are typically given in 24-48 hour intervals and based on what I was expecting from NOAA I thought we’d have good activity the next evening. Going to get a good night’s sleep tonight! So, here I am heading out to the outhouse just after midnight, ready to hit the sack . . .

Diffuse aurora borealis filling the sky
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I ran into the house to get as many clothing layers as I could quickly (it was -30° F) and took off down the street. I wanted to get to the trails but didn’t make it in time. Setting the tripod down a few times along the way to shoot the most incredible, all-sky aurora I’ve seen yet slowed me down.

Magical Aurora

Aurora borealis over forest
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Very bright aurora over a spruce forest
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Respite came the following night, which is great because I’m not sure I got a full hour of sleep this night. I think my alarm went off a few moments after I set my head down. The night I was expecting to be good (7th) turned out to fizzle pretty quickly. But, it didn’t go down without a fight:

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And now there’s not a cloud in the sky – I’m going to sleep anyway!

I archive all my photos by date here: January
Check out January 3-7 if you have some time.

Some will end up in my aurora borealis gallery. Of course, you can always buy a print or two as well. It will entice me to stand out in sub-zero temperatures all night some more!

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The Northern Light is so beautiful!

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